Podcasts! Nothing But Podcasts!
Podcasts are huge these days! But I liked 'em before they were cool, kids, believe me.
They seem to come up in conversation more and more, with people often asking me for my favorites so I thought I'd write all this down, especially the lesser-known ones.
My tastes run the gamut, so YMMV.
When asked over the past several years, I have routinely said that the Skeptics Guide to the Universe has been my overall favorite podcast. It is still usually one of the first podcasts I'll listen to if I haven't listened to anything in a while, but it's not quite where it used to be, for me at least. Maybe it's because I've been listening for so many years, I feel like I know all their tricks. To be fair, though, they do try to change up their segments some every year.
Bottom line: this is a great weekly intro to skeptical thinking for lay-people. As I've mentioned before, skepticism is a topic near and dear to my heart. Highly recommended for anyone interested in science, needs help with strategies for debunking nonsense, or wants a practical schooling in logical fallacies.
StarTalk Radio is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and is a pretty good show but I'm not a fan of the format of comedian as color commentary for a pre-recorded science interview. Still, Neil can often score some pretty solid guests due to his "rock star scientist" status.
Science Friday gets an obligatory nod. If there's anything newsworthy going on in the scientific community, it's sure to be discussed here.
I listen to too many of these.
The /Filmcast has probably supplanted the Skeptic's Guide as my #1 favorite podcast at the moment. It's in my particular Goldilocks Zone of film-nerdery without pretension, and deference for genre films without going full fanboy.
I've actually learned a lot about film from listening to this show. I've also gotten loads of great recommendations for things to watch, not just movies but plenty of TV as well. Too much, really.
I actually don't love this comic-book-themed podcast though I'll use this as an opportunity to say that this is one of Joanna Robinson's many podcasts (I'm too tired to list them, just Google, dammit), and I'm generally happy to listen to any of them. Also, Dave Gonzales really knows his stuff when it comes to comics.
I usually do listen to this one, though, because I still love comic books and "comics-adjacent culture" as they put it, and it gives me my fix on industry news and reading recommendations.
If you know of anything better for comics (not comicbook-movies), please let me know.
Vulture is my favorite site for reading about TV, so it's no surprise that I listen to their podcast. I agree with Matt Zoller Seitz about 80% of the time so that's pretty great in my book.
FilmSpotting / Filmspotting SVU - Original and "Streaming Video Unit" flavors for more film review and criticism. Both are good - the former being new film reviews and the latter dedicated to streaming offerings. But I can't keep up so rely on the /Filmcast and fill in with these when I have extra time or interest in a particular movie.
Next Picture Show - This is a newer film podcast put out by former members of the excellent website The Dissolve, which has... well, dissolved. But these guys are very sharp film geeks and I learn a lot every time I listen. Their shtick is to review a current film by comparing it to an older film that the current one clearly draws from. It works well.
Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project is a difficult podcast to categorize, but iTunes says it belongs here, so I'm sticking with that. This is a show featuring some folks from tested.com and Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame.
As with many good podcasts, they talk about pretty much everything, from tech to film to whatever pops into their heads. I just love Adam and Mythbusters (and Zombie Feynman's defense of them) so that's basically the reason I listed it.
Also one great recommendation I got from this show is the excellent series Every Frame a Painting which is like a free and fun film school on YouTube.
- This Week in Tech (TWiT) - I don't listen to this weekly as often as I used to, but kind of like Science Friday, if there's something topical in the industry going on, I'll check here for their punditry. Leo LaPorte has been doing this type of tech commentary since long before it was cool.
- I would love a recommendation for something in the space that intersects home theater/tech/cord cutting. I've tried a couple but found them wanting.
I can't possibly keep up with this one since it's daily. At the time of this writing, it's only been around for half a year or so, but there are tons of great episodes to listen to on a wide variety of software development topics.
- Software Engineering Radio This podcast has stepped up its game in the last year or two, publishing consistently at least every couple of weeks. They discuss software development trends and techniques with industry leaders.
Finance / Money
Okay, this isn't a lesser-known one, as I promised, but it really is good. I think it's fallen off in quality in the last year or two, though. The best episodes are basically spoken-word chapters of one of the many books put out by team Dubner and Levitt, which are all great reads.
- Planet Money - One of many solid NPR podcasts. I have to admit that I bring this one up not so much because I love it (I do like it), but because I have a -perhaps irrational- hatred of Zoe Chace's voice. As long as it's not one of her episodes, I'm happy to have these guys explain complex market events or financial instruments to me with simple examples and analogies.
Tough to categorize this one too, but it's one of my favorites. iTunes lists it as "education". It's basically Author/Neuroscientist/Philosopher Sam Harris talking about various topics - mainly current events, philosophy, religion.
Now, this podcast won't be for everyone. Like his comrade-in-arms Richard Dawkins (of whom I am also a big fan), Sam is a bit of a controversial figure in some circles. He is a "devout atheist" (which, yes, really is an oxymoron) and often rails against religion in all forms, but his criticism of Islam is what gets him in trouble with those on the "regressive left" as he puts it. Setting politics aside, I think Sam is a well-spoken and thoughtful person, and I always look forward to his take on almost any topic.
Dan Carlin's two podcasts are both uniformly excellent. I first heard about them from Sam Harris's podcast, and the two of them later did a joint interview of each other, which was very interesting.
Dan does an amazing job of making historical topics thrilling to listen to. I never really knew much of anything about World War I before I listened to his series on it. He puts a very human face on world events which draws you right in.
Similarly, his "Common Sense" podcast is his take on current events. It might be presumptuous to call your show "Common Sense", but I think Dan really does have it. He doesn't have an overt political perspective that I can detect and like Sam, I'm always interested to hear his take on things.
I would classify this as a self-help podcast, and the quality is all over the place in my opinion. Tim Ferriss is an interesting character - very ambitious and successful in his own right, he interviews top performers in every profession imaginable.
I think Tim tries a bit too hard to boil success down to a formula - for instance, asking everyone what their morning routine is. I'm sure many successful people have set routines in the morning but I think he ascribes too much meaning to such things.
In any case, it's worth looking over the back catalog and picking out interviews with people you like or respect. You'll be guaranteed to find some.
I've been wanting a decent beer podcast to listen to forever - but I've never been able to find one I really like that had any kind of consistent publishing schedule. So I'm looking for suggestions.
I'll note, however, that I came across Beer with Geeks while looking up "The Thought Bubble" for this post on iTunes - this one is published by "Thought Bubble Audio" so it came up. I started listening and I like it. I'd say it's more geek than beer from what I can gather so far, but they do talk about beer too. Just two dudes drinking and talking about geeky stuff. Can't say if I'll stick with it or not so take it for whatever that's worth.
Any podcasts that you swear by? Let me know!